Based in Vasco in football-crazy Goa, Salgaocar FC has been around since 1956. The club was founded by Vasudev Salgaocar, the founder and President of the V M Salgaocar Group of Companies. Passionate about the sport, Mr. Salgaocar decided to form the club to give local youth a platform where they could showcase their talents. After Goa’s independence from Portugal in 1961, Salgaocar was the first Goan team invited to participate in the prestigious Durand Cup in 1962. Although they did not win, they performed so well that the then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, felicitated the team at his residence.
In the 1990s, the team went from strength to strength, winning everything from the National League to the Federation Cup. Although, they didn’t perform as well in the early 2000s, they made a hugely successful comeback in the 2010-2011 season by winning the I-League once again. This season, their U-15 team ended the zonal round of the U15 Youth League at the top of the table. They were the only team in the group to end with a positive goal difference, finishing 5 points clear of the runners-up. And they managed all of this by making sure they invested well in their grassroots programme.
While Salgaocar FC is one of the few clubs investing so heavily in grassroots, their performance at the I-League is proof that their carefully crafted programme is paying off. The club has consistently made it through to the last round of the I-League youth tournaments. Their U19 team finished 3rd in the 2014-2015 season, while the U18 team managed the same feat in the 2015-2016 season as well.
The club’s youth development programme is being spearheaded by Vasudev Salgaocar’s granddaughter, Swati, who hopes to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps, helping the club reach the heights of success they were at before. An architect by profession with degrees from the prestigious Yale and Columbia Universities in the US, Swati now spends her time with the football club her grandfather had so lovingly started.
An avid believer in giving back to the community, Swati spoke about how Salgaocar FC started a grassroots programme long before it became one of the boxes to tick-mark for an I-League License. According to her, youth development shouldn’t just be a photo opportunity for clubs. Rather it needs be a concrete programme that allows children to develop their talents. In her role as Vice President of the Youth Development Programme, Swati helped develop a structure for the grassroots programme.
An offshoot of the grassroots programme is the club’s community outreach programme. Here, children who attend are given a chance to be trained by the club’s coaches, as well as players from the first team. The kids are taught football basics in a fun and engaging way, and the coaches use these training sessions to identify talented youth who can be absorbed into the club’s grassroots programme. While the grassroots programme is only for children above the age of 10, kids between the ages of 6 and 11 can participate in the community outreach initiatives.
Explaining her motivation behind the community programmes, this is what Swati had to say:
“The grassroots programme starts from the age of 10 but we begin monitoring children from the ages of 5 and 6 in our community programme. The idea is to develop a compact structure and I think it is taking shape.”
Swati hopes that the children they groom from an early age will go on to make the first team as great as it once was. While they have lost good players to clubs who pay more, Salgaocar is not in the business of shelling out money to get players to stay. Everybody dreams of a bright future, and Swati has set up the grassroots programme to be a launch pad for those dreams. She stresses on providing aspiring footballers from all age groups with the same opportunities. While the training for each age group differs, the opportunities and facilities provided to them do not. Initially, finding good coaches who were willing to take on the challenge of grassroots coaching wasn’t easy. However, Swati was able to convince the coaches and management about the importance of a robust grassroots system. And although only some of the youth they train will go on to become footballers, everybody who goes through the programme is left with valuable lessons that they can take forward not only on the pitch, but off it as well.
As a strong, values-driven club, Salgaocar FC is definitely moving in the right direction. This year, 671 children attended their community outreach programme and we sincerely hope that the club will keep introducing more young children to the beautiful game.